Friday, 25 July 2014

On the trail of Rose's Oatmeal Stout

Rose's Oatmeal Stout, based on current evidence, was the first of its type. But tracking down more information on its brewer, Rose & Wilson, is proving trickier than anticipated.

But "A Century of British Brewers" lists no brewery of that name. Neither does "Hull and East Yorkshire Breweries", nor "The Brewing Industry: a Guide to Historical Records".

The trademark case mentioned that they had breweries in Hull and Grimsby. I'm pretty sure this is the Grimsby branch:
"The ordinary operations on Monday were supplemented by Messrs. Thomas, Peyer, and Miles' offer of a couple of breweries, together with a large parcel of Shares in such industries. The total realisations of the day, nearly £70,000, were mainly the result of this firm's success herein. The properties were the Wellow Brewery, Great Grimsby, with modern 15-quarter plant, and 19 freehold and leasehold hotels, public and beer houses, which changed hands at £23,000 ; the goodwill of the trade is represented by the beer duty payments last year, which amounted to nearly £3000, and the sole right to manufacture Rose and Co.'s oatmeal stout;"
London Standard - Monday 14 May 1900, page 2.
Which gets a small entry:

"Lewis & Barker, Wellow Brewery, 24 Wellowgate, founded 1802. Acquired by the Nottingham Brewery Ltd. 1900 with 19 tied houses. Closed 1944."
"A Century of British Brewers Plus" by Norman Barber, 2005, page 75.
It wasn't a very big brewery. 15-quarters equates to about 60 barrels of standard-strength beer. So an annual capacity of maybe 18,000 barrels.

This shows how exclusive that right to Oatmeal Stout was:

"Messrs J. and T. Usher, Ltd., the New City Brewery, River Street, Bristol, have an inviting stall, and thereat samples are given of their speciality—oatmeal stout. This is brewed by J. and T. Usher, Ltd.. from oatmeal, specially suitable for those requiring light nourishing stout. It possesses all the nutritive, strengthening, and stimulating properties of oatmeal. Sufferers from indigestion, neuralgia, anaemia, sleeplessness, brain fag, and general debility experience great benefit by regular use it. liquid food, and forms an agreeable and refreshing beverage"

 See how they pushed the health aspect of Oatmeal Stout? I'm sure it's totally true. A newspaper wouldn't lie, would it?

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Saturday in Birmingham

I'll be in Birmingham this weekend. The main reason is that I'm giving a talk as part of the Birmingham Beer Bash.

It's about Brettanomyces in British brewing and is at 13:30 on Saturday. You'll also have the chance to buy a copy of my book, The Homebrewer's Guide to Vintage Beer, and get it signed.

You can sign up for the talk here:

You can always buy my book here if you aren't coming to Birmingham:

The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer.

Cannon Brewery Porter quality 1922 - 1923

As we penetrate further into the jungle of 1920's draught beer, we're being swallowed by the darkness.

Which is another way of saying ther beers are getting even worse. Cannon, if you remember, was a fairly small company (they had 110 tied houses in 1895, according to Norman Barber*) with a  brewery crammed into the middle of Clerkenwell. They were bought by Taylor Walker in 1930 but surprisingly kept brewing until 1955.

Cannon's scores have been, to be polite, patchy so far. Their Mild Ale came a respectable fifth of seventeen with an average score of 0.54. It wasn't such a happy story for their Burton Ale which came last of fourteen with a poor average score of -0.73. Barclay Perkins Burton was the only other one with a negative average score. It was a similar story for their Pale Ale, which was joint last of fifteen with an average score of -0.9. Again, only two beers had negative average scores, the other being Charrington.

Their Porter is a little weaker than the average, but other wise unspectacular. Let's see how it scored:

Cannon Brewery Porter quality 1922 - 1923
Year Beer FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation Flavour score Price
1922 Porter 1010 1035 3.24 71.43% nasty -3 6d
1922 Porter 1010 1034 3.11 70.59% poor -1 6d
1922 Porter 1010.2 1036.2 3.37 71.82% sour -3 6d
1922 Porter 1010.2 1035.2 3.24 71.02% v poor -3 6d
1923 Porter 1009.8 1032.8 2.98 70.12% nasty -3 6d
1923 Porter 1008 1033.5 3.31 76.12% sour -3 6d
1923 Porter 1009.4 1034.9 3.30 73.07% sour -3 5d
1923 Porter 1009.4 1033.9 3.17 72.27% thin poor -2 6d
1923 Porter 1009 1036 3.50 75.00% v poor going off -2 6d
Average  1009.6 1034.6 3.25 72.38% -2.56
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

That's impressive: not one good score. In facy, "poor" is the best score any sample could muster. An impressive two-thirds of the examples get the worst score of -3.

My guesss is that Porter sales were slow and that, combined with the low gravity, left it going off, unloved in the cellar while the punters tucked into Mild or Stout. Something that didn't taste like vinegar. By this time draught Porter was available in few parts of the country. Probably hardly anywhere other than the London area and Ireland.

I wonder what Lomndon brewers thought? They must have realised Porter was dying. But I suppose while there was still a market, however small and diminishing, it was worth their while to brew it. That's the joy of parti-gyling: it allows you to brew very small batches econmically, as long as there's a more popular beer in the same general style. The continued thirst for Stout in London meant that was the case for Porter. It took the upheaval of WW II for London brewers to finally pull the plug on Porter.

My advice should you find yourself in a Cannon pub? Drink Mild!

Loads more of this to come, as I'm sure you realise.

* "A Century of British Brewes plus" by Norman Barber, 2005, page 83.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Going pro

I'm giving patreon a try to see if that gets me any closer to financial independence.

Sponsorship anyone?

You know what would be great? If I could finally get on with researching full-time.

There's only one teeny-weeny problem. A little thing called cash. The money I currently earn isn't enough to feed and clothe me, let alone the rest of my family.

What I need is a sponsor. Or several sponsors. To pay me the equivalent of a salary so I can on with doing what I do best: researching and writing. I think my work is a service to the whole beer world. But if I'm to continue at my current level, I need support.

So if you feel like contributing, get in touch. Obviously I'd be be prepared to give something back in return.

Expensive Oatmeal Stout

I'm not done with Oatmeal Stout yet. I happened to comae across this advert which, though not obvious at first glance, tells us quite a bit about Oatmeal Stout.

Take a look and see if you can spot anything:

Evening Telegraph - Friday 02 December 1898, page 1.

The most obvious point is that in a catalogue of fashionable, expensive beers, Oatmeal Stout gets top billing. Literally.

Look at the price, too. It's almost as expensive as Imperial Stout and costs as much as Bass or Allsopp Pale Ale, two expensive beers. Maclay's Oat Malt Stout of 1909 had the not particularly high gravity of 1062. If this Oatmeal Stout were of a similar strength it would be dreadful value for money.

I find it very odd that with the amounnt of bigging up the advert gives to Oatmeal Stout, it doesn't mention the brewer. It seems as if the fact that it's an Oatmeal Stout is more impor5tant tahn the identity of the brewer. You would never see a Burton Pale Ale advertised without the brewer's name.

Overall this advery demonstrates a trend with beer styles. When they're new and all the rage, they're poor value for money: Pale Ale and Lager a re good examples of this phenomenon. Over time, as a style stops being the latest must-have item, the price premium is eroded.

Jsut thought I'd throw in a little of my evolutionary theory of beer styles. I must write it all down properly sometime. I've reams of hand-scribbled notes on the topic somewhere. Amongst all my piles of stuff. You'll be the first to know, should I miraculously unearth it.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Barclay Perkins Porter quality 1922 - 1923

"Thank you, Ronald," I can hear you saying. "Thank you for continuing your series on draught beer quality in 1920's London.

We've now got as far as Porter. If I'm honest, the Porter analyses are the most revealing about what was happening in the London pub trade. It gives some clues as to both the state Porter and why it was in decline. You could call it the Mild Effect.

What's that? Let me explain. In the 1970's, Mild sales were falling. Dramatically falling in some regions. This decline kicked off a vicious circle. A low volume of sales, meant that it was often too old and in bad condition. Which deterred drinkers from buying, leading to even lower sales and even poorer beer quality. Eventually it wasn't worth the landlord's while to sell it any more.

The comments on flavour in the Whitbread Gravity Book tend to confirm this. To put it bluntly: there was a lot of crap Porter about in the 1920's. Why do I think poor sales were to blame? Because I can see the decline that Porter went into after WW I quite clearly in Whitbread's production figures by type.

Here's what happened with their Porter 1910 - 1929:

Output of Whitbread Porter 1910 - 1929
year barrels brewed Total Port Total Ale & Porter % of Porter/Stout % of total
1910 108,166 361,847 850,828 29.89% 12.71%
1911 101,934 368,953 907,173 27.63% 11.24%
1912 111,239 386,734 988,981 28.76% 11.25%
1913 127,838 378,629 901,807 33.76% 14.18%
1914 123,085 382,984 900,636 32.14% 13.67%
1915 65,216 314,169 762,438 20.76% 8.55%
1916 80,298 369,130 777,127 21.75% 10.33%
1917 8,493 286,163 578,502 2.97% 1.47%
1918 7,136 110,695 413,112 6.45% 1.73%
1919 21,602 117,284 565,624 18.42% 3.82%
1920 24,910 234,413 10.63%
1921 15,688 238,623 675,647 6.57% 2.32%
1922 16,562 192,717 576,118 8.59% 2.87%
1923 14,165 169,977 505,097 8.33% 2.80%
1924 15,948 178,192 551,616 8.95% 2.89%
1925 14,943 163,932 527,977 9.12% 2.83%
1926 13,511 168,513 512,528 8.02% 2.64%
1927 10,708 149,725 462,250 7.15% 2.32%
1928 10,105 142,153 488,357 7.11% 2.07%
1929 5,558 85,779 443,888 6.48% 1.25%
Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/01/075, LMA/4453/D/01/076, LMA/4453/D/01/077, LMA/4453/D/01/078, LMA/4453/D/01/079, LMA/4453/D/01/080, LMA/4453/D/01/081 LMA/4453/D/01/082, LMA/4453/D/01/083, LMA/4453/D/01/084, LMA/4453/D/01/085, LMA/4453/D/01/086, LMA/4453/D/01/087, LMA/4453/D/01/088, LMA/4453/D/01/089, LMA/4453/D/01/090, LMA/4453/D/01/091, LMA/4453/D/01/092, LMA/4453/D/01/093, LMA/4453/D/01/094, LMA/4453/D/01/095,
LMA/4453/D/09/104, LMA/4453/D/09/105, LMA/4453/D/09/106, LMA/4453/D/09/107, LMA/4453/D/09/108, LMA/4453/D/09/109, LMA/4453/D/09/110, LMA/4453/D/09/111, LMA/4453/D/09/112, LMA/4453/D/09/113, LMA/4453/D/09/114, LMA/4453/D/09/115, LMA/4453/D/09/116, LMA/4453/D/09/117, LMA/4453/D/09/118, LMA/4453/D/09/119, LMA/4453/D/09/120, LMA/4453/D/09/121, LMA/4453/D/09/122 and LMA/4453/D/09/123.

Whitbread's Porter was in surprisingly good health leading up to WW I, with sales increasing. The war put a stop to that and output of it almost dried up after 1916. It bounced back a little in 1920, then went into a steady decline.

It also seems that many Porter drinkers switched to Stout. During the war, often the Porter and Stout on offer in a pub were the same beer, the only difference being the price. After the war, standard draught Stout was similar in gravity to pre-war Porter, in the range 1052 - 1056. Switchching to Stout is exactly what I would have done, if I had been able to afford it.

On with Barclay Perkins' Porter. Remember that they had been one of the great Porter breweries, and had brewed Porter for over 150 years. It's fairly typical in terms of gravity and ABV. Let's take a look at the details:

Barclay Perkins Porter quality 1922 - 1923
Year Beer FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation Flavour score Price
1922 Porter 1013.2 1040.2 3.49 67.16% Poor & thin -2 6d
1922 Porter 1011.5 1035.5 3.10 67.61% v fair 2 6d
1922 Porter 1010.5 1034.5 3.11 69.57% v poor -3 6d
1923 Porter 1012 1037.5 3.30 68.00% fair 1 6d
1923 Porter 1010.8 1035.8 3.24 69.83% fair 1 5d
1923 Porter 1012.5 1038 3.30 67.11% going off -2 6d
1923 Porter 1012.8 1039.8 3.49 67.84% moderate 1 6d
1923 Porter 1009.8 1038.8 3.76 74.74% v poor -3 6d
Average  1011.6 1037.5 3.35 68.98% -0.63
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

One thing I forgot to mention. For Porter and Stout there's no mention of clarity, presumably because of their dark colour. As you can see, the quality wasn't great. Only half get a positive score and only one of those scores higher than 1.

I can see why drinkers shunned Porter in the 1920's. It was often pretty crap. The lowered gravity wouldn't have helped. If only I had some similar information from before the war to confirm that its quality had declined. Oh well, you can't have everything.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Still a few more hours to get 13% off my Lulu books

with this code:


Barclay Perkins Bookstore

Lille (part three)

We're in search of food. Which is often the case. I've this terrible eating habit. I eat every single day. Without fail.

The best thing about having Dolores  as a travelling companion is that it reduces the planning and preparation work I have to do. Less work for me is always a good thing. She's very much the organised type. She's taken out a guide book to Lille from the library. It has some handy hints. Including where the estaminets are.

An estaminet is a type of traditional boozer found in this region. They've a reputation for a cosy old-fashioned atmosphere, good local food and lots of beer.

"Do you fancy eating in an estaminet, Ronald?"

"You can twist my arm."

There are a few estaminets clustered around Avenue du Peuple Belge. Getting there from the citadel is a piece of piss - just follow the Rue Négrier. Which we do. It's an unusual street, with some old houses so large that they're small palaces. That's the sort of thing you sometimes see in France. It's a sign of how loaded they were a couple of centuries back.

I was surprised by the look of Avenue du Peuple Belge on the map. It seems far too wide for a street in the old part of town. A hint was given by the change in the street name ro Rue du Pont Neuf (New Bridge Street). Sure enough, it became a bridge crossing over Avenue du Peuple Belge. Obviously it was some sort of filled in waterway.

I tried looking up the history of it on the web. But all I could find out was that Avenue du Peuple Belge had a problem with the nuisance caused by street prostitution in 2011.

The guide book marked our destination estaminet, Le Petit Barbue d'Anvers, as being of the corner of Pont Neuf and Avenue du Peuple Belge. Annoyingly, it didn't give a precise street address. We weren't even sure which of the two streets it was on. After a while of fruitlessly wandering around, we gave up and headed for Rue de Gand which is home to two estaminets.

We had more luck here. I'd had enough of walking and we rushed into the first estaminet we passed, L'Estaminet 't Rijsel. Now there's an odd name, mixing French and Dutch. Risel being the Dutch name for Lille. It's everything I've hoped for.

I've been in a few pubs over the years. And I can recognise the difference between old junk bought in a job lot and thrown around apparently randomly and a pub where suff has been just hung on walls an put on shelves over decades. This is the real deal. I spend a stupid amount of time looking at this crap.

It's only noon, but it's about half full. Everyone is speaking French, which is another good sign. We get ourselves half litres while we work out what we want to eat. Ch'ti Blonde for Dolores, their Tripel for me. I always opt fore the option with more alcoholic goodness. Here are our beers:

The menu is a school exercsie book. Pretty funky. The food, once again, is pure Belgian. I go for a Carbonade Famande, which is a type of beer casserole. It's rather nice.

As I'm nibbling at my food, something strikes me. Every single customer is drinking beer. And not the same beer, but all sorts of different ones. That wouldn't be so surprising if they were 20-something hipsters, but they aren't. Most are older than me.

Almost forgot. They also have hops hanging from the ceiling:

On the way back to our hotel, I drag Dolores into a giant FNAC. She's had enough walking for today and sits down while I go off and rummage through the books. Almost immediately, I find this: "Le Guide des Brasseurs et Bieres de France" by Robert Dutin. What a handy book. It lists all the breweries in France, which now number a surprising 590.Last time I counted - maybe 5 years ago - there were about half that.

I also pick up a book about WW I.Nice to get a French perspective on the conflict. I've already got one in German.

When I'm all booked up, we go back to our hotel for a rest. I need it. God knows how far we've walked today.

L'Estaminet 't Rijsel
25 Rue de Gand,
59800 Lille.
Tel: +33 3 20 15 01 59

20, rue Saint-Nicolas,
59000 Lille.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

League table of London Pale Ales in the 1920's

I may have processed the final individual Pale Ale, but I'm not quite done. A review of results is in order.

I'll warn you now: it's going to be table overload. I can't help playing around with the numbers and presenting them in different ways. I think we can learn much from them, especially the overall numbers for each type of beer.

The good news is that the majority of average scores per brewery were positive. The two negative average score - for Cannon and Charrington - were only very slightly below zero. I'm not sure how significant it is that both are Ordinary Bitters.

This first table demonstrates one point very clearly: that the beers of each type were very similar in their specifications across the different breweries. The Best Bitters in particular have virtually identical gravities. I think this is partly as a result of the price/gravity controls which were in place in the years after WW I. And also just commercial reality. Because so much of the price was solely the tax, there was little room for flexibility. Tax made up about 40% of the retail price in the 1920s.

Let's start with the league table based on average score. Once again, Whitbread are the champions:

League table of 1920s London Pale Ales by score
Brewery FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation score
Whitbread 1011.3 1046.0 4.51 75.55% 2.25
Truman 1008.0 1047.5 5.14 83.09% 1.62
City of London 1008.7 1045.5 4.79 80.82% 1.00
Huggins 1008.7 1046.0 4.86 81.10% 0.36
Meux 1007.4 1044.8 4.87 83.36% 0.33
Barclay Perkins 1008.7 1045.6 4.81 80.88% 0.25
Wenlock 1006.9 1044.5 4.90 84.56% 0.09
Hoare 1012.1 1046.3 4.44 73.83% 0.00
Lion Brewery 1010.7 1046.5 4.65 77.05% 0.00
Cannon 1009.0 1045.2 4.72 80.06% -0.09
Charrington 1008.7 1048.2 5.14 81.91% -0.09
Average 8d 1009.1 1046.0 4.80 80.20% 0.52
Watney 1011.4 1053.8 5.54 78.90% 2.21
Courage 1012.0 1053.8 5.46 77.93% 1.25
Mann 1008.3 1053.4 5.88 84.44% 0.07
Benskin 1010.1 1053.6 5.68 81.23% 0.00
Average 9d 1010.4 1053.7 5.64 80.63% 0.88
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

I'm struck by the high degree of attenuation. For both Ordinary and Best Bitter it's over 80%.
Overall the standard is pretty high, at least in terms of score. let's see how they do for clarity:

League table of 1920s London Pale Ales by clarity
 Brewery No. examples no. bright % bright no. good flavour % good flavour
Truman 13 11 84.62% 12 92.31%
Whitbread 4 3 75.00% 4 100.00%
Watney 14 9 64.29% 14 100.00%
Wenlock 11 7 63.64% 6 54.55%
Cannon 11 6 54.55% 6 54.55%
Huggins 11 6 54.55% 7 63.64%
Barclay Perkins 12 6 50.00% 7 58.33%
Courage 12 6 50.00% 8 66.67%
Hoare 10 5 50.00% 4 40.00%
Lion Brewery 10 5 50.00% 6 60.00%
Meux 12 5 41.67% 9 75.00%
City of London 13 5 38.46% 10 76.92%
Mann 14 5 35.71% 7 50.00%
Benskin 9 3 33.33% 4 44.44%
Charrington 11 3 27.27% 5 45.45%
Average 167 85 50.90% 109 65.27%
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

Just ever so slightly over half being fully bright is poor. Only Whitbread and Truman scored really well on this point. And as for Charrington - pathetic. Barely a quarter of their samples were clear. You can see that there's not a direct relationship between clarity and flavour quality. City of London is a good example. Not much more than a third clear, but three-quarters with a good flavour. Whoever would have thought I'd be able to check something like this almost 100 years later?

There are some impressive performances in terms of flavour:

League table of 1920s London Pale Ales by % good flavour
 Brewery No. examples no. bright % bright no. good flavour % good flavour
Whitbread 4 3 75.00% 4 100.00%
Watney 14 9 64.29% 14 100.00%
Truman 13 11 84.62% 12 92.31%
City of London 13 5 38.46% 10 76.92%
Meux 12 5 41.67% 9 75.00%
Courage 12 6 50.00% 8 66.67%
Huggins 11 6 54.55% 7 63.64%
Lion Brewery 10 5 50.00% 6 60.00%
Barclay Perkins 12 6 50.00% 7 58.33%
Wenlock 11 7 63.64% 6 54.55%
Cannon 11 6 54.55% 6 54.55%
Mann 14 5 35.71% 7 50.00%
Charrington 11 3 27.27% 5 45.45%
Benskin 9 3 33.33% 4 44.44%
Hoare 10 5 50.00% 4 40.00%
Average 167 85 50.90% 109 65.27%
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

Whitbread, Watney and Truman all do very well, the first two with perfect scores, the other pretty close. I must admit surprise at Charrington's piss poor performance. They're a brewery that had a good reputation, yet they're stumbling along at the bottom end of the tables.

Now it's time to compare the statistics of the beer types we've looked at so far. In all, there are almost 500 samples:

Averages per beer type
beer type No. examples no. bright % bright no. good flavour % good flavour average score
Burton Average 138 61 44.20% 92 66.67% 0.72
Mild Average 188 112 59.57% 112 59.57% 0.16
X Average 170 104 61.18% 106 62.35% 0.23
MA Average 18 8 44.44% 6 33.33% -0.18
PA Average 167 85 50.90% 109 65.27% 0.62
8d PA Average 118 62 52.54% 76 64.41% 0.52
9d PA Average 49 23 46.94% 33 67.35% 0.88
Average 493 258 52.33% 313 63.49% 0.57
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

Burton Ale comes out on top for score. As long as we lump all the Pale Ales together. Split out Best and Ordinary Bitter and Best Bitter wins. Surprisingly, Burton scores worst for clarity. Elsewhere, Mild is bottom for everything. Splitting out X Ale and MA improves things a bit for the former. Other than for clarity, a general rule seems to be the higher the gravity, the better chance of a good pint.

Finally a ranking by brewery. The number is the position in the relevant league table.

Ranking by brewery
Brewery Burton Mild PA Total
Whitbread 1 4 1 6
Watney 8 2 2 12
Courage 2 8 4 14
Mann 3 1 10 14
Truman 9 6 3 18
Wenlock 6 3 9 18
Meux 4 11 7 22
Lion 7 7 12 26
Huggins 11 10 6 27
Hoare 10 9 11 30
Cannon 14 5 14 33
City of London 12 17 5 34
Barclay Perkins 13 15 8 36
Charrington 5 16 15 36

You know what's really spooky about that result? The top five - Whitbread, Watney, Courage, Mann and Truman - were, if I remember correctly, the last five large breweries in London. Most of the bottom half are breweries that disappeared before WW II. With the exception of the two relegation positions. I'm very surprised - and disappointed - to see Barclay Perkins and Charrington propping up the table.

It looks as if, in general, the better the quality of your beer, the better your chances of long-term survival. Either that or the larger the brewery, the better the beer quality.

Finally done with Pale Ale. Next it's the turn of Porter.